High-level baseball is nothing new for Los Angeles Dodgers’ backup catcher Drew Butera.
Before being traded to the Dodgers on July 31, 2013, Butera was the backup for six-time All-Star catcher Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins. And even before his major-league debut with the Twins in 2010, Butera had gained much baseball know-how from his father Sal, a former major leaguer, and from many other professional players generous enough to share their time with him.
After graduating from Orlando’s Bishop Moore High School in 2002, Butera played baseball at the University of Central Florida, where he was drafted in the fifth round by the New York Mets in 2005. He played minor-league ball for the Mets until a professional and spiritual turning point resulted in his being traded to the Twins in 2007.
Butera, 31 and only the fifth MLB player ever to catch a no-hitter in both the American and National Leagues (including the Dodgers’ Josh Beckett’s gem on May 25), spoke about his baseball life, and his Catholic faith, with the National Catholic Register before the July 15 All-Star Game in Minneapolis.
The Dodgers have an abundance of great pitching. Is this intimidating or inspiring?
It’s really a blessing to have so many great pitchers on the team. The guys have great talent, but also a great work ethic, which I enjoy being a part of. I prepare before each game with the starter to make sure we have the other team’s batting lineup down. We don’t leave anything to chance, but do what we can to control everything we do have control over.
The pitchers have good stuff, but more than that, their thorough preparation makes good results possible. They do the same things day in and day out — the work necessary to get things done.
Your father, Sal, played for the Twins, Tigers, Expos, Reds and Blue Jays, so you must have learned a lot about baseball from him.
There are countless baseball-related memories I have with my father. Baseball has always been a part of our lives together. That’s been a great blessing: to have the man closest to you growing up with nearly all the answers for the questions you have about your favorite sport.
I’ve also been blessed to be around other major-league players who were nice enough to play catch with me and give me some pointers. Guys like former Blue Jays right fielder and two-time All-Star Shawn Green (who also played for the Dodgers) would play catch with me in the mid-1990s and tell me how to be better.
Some of the best lessons were about work ethic, no complaining, playing for the good of the team and letting go of results. Wishing for things doesn’t make them happen; you have to do what’s necessary to get things done. Complaining is easy to do, but if you want peace of mind, gratitude and patience are necessary.
Playing selfishly is also easy to do, but playing properly means the team comes first. After all the diligent and selfless teamwork, letting go of results tops everything off. You’ve done what you can do to achieve a certain result, and then it’s just up to God to give you what is best for you, whether you feel it’s best or not.
Have you always taken the faith seriously or was there a specific turning point when you started to do so?
I had a good Catholic upbringing: I was raised in a Catholic home, taught the difference between right and wrong, went to Catholic schools, went to Mass and said my prayers. These are all very good things, of course, but it took some adversity for me to get a better grasp of how important being Catholic is. I always thought well of the Church, but when things get tough, you can start to develop a deeper appreciation.
I was playing for the Mets’ AA team in Binghamton, N.Y., in 2007, and things were not going well at all. I wasn’t playing up to my capabilities, and, considering the goal of playing in the majors, it seemed as if my world was crashing down upon me. I had put so much into the sport, but was not seeing the intended results. That was a really low point in my life.
I remember going to church in downtown Binghamton and sitting in the back. A Mass was being said, but I don’t remember anything about it, because I was just praying the whole time for the strength to know and do God’s will. When things go well, you can be deceived into thinking that it’s all your own doing, but when things go badly, you realize how much you need God’s grace. That’s what happened to me in 2007, and that particular Mass where I prayed like never before was a turning point in my life.
The very next day, I was traded to the Minnesota Twins, and, while, of course, there were still the normal ups and downs of baseball, things got better overall. I progressed through the Twins’ organization and made my major-league debut in 2010. I was so blessed to be the backup for Joe Mauer. You can't help but take in good things from Joe, who is one of the most intelligent and productive players in the game.
What are some of the aspects of the Church that you appreciate most?
I’m really into the tradition and history of the Church — not only the obvious things you find in Europe, especially in Italy and Rome, specifically — but also the things you find in the United States. I’ve been to many beautiful and historic churches in cities like Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia.
One of my favorite places to visit is St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. It is an impressive building for so many reasons. It’s large but detailed, built in neo-Gothic style with beautiful stained-glass windows and statuary. The way everything is organized makes you appreciate the time and effort that went into designing and constructing it. I could spend hours in St. Patrick’s among all the beautiful artwork and history there.
One of the fascinating threads of history at St. Patrick’s includes Venerable Fulton Sheen, who is now interred there in the crypt under the main altar. Shortly before Sheen’s death in 1979, he was embraced by Pope John Paul II at St. Patrick’s, the same place that, years before, Sheen would preach Good Friday sermons.
Another is Venerable Solanus Casey, a 20th-century Franciscan priest who spent part of his life in New York City. He actually liked to play baseball and was a catcher, so I’m looking forward to learning more about him. I already have two St. Christopher medals, one of which I got from St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s gift shop, but maybe I’ll be getting a Venerable Solanus medal, too.
It’s reassuring to think about how the Catholic Church goes all the way back to Jesus, how that same Church was brought to the United States by courageous missionaries and how we’re fortunate enough to be a part of it today. We’re members of the body of Christ, which continues to live through the ages, with the goal of everyone being saved and united permanently with Jesus in heaven. That’s the common theme among all the varied historical situations any given Christian might find himself in. Jesus is always and everywhere pursuing our eternal beatitude.
This is an updated version of article that originally ran July 15 at NCRegister.com. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register.